News / USA

Honeybees Still Disappearing in the US

Beekeepers and scientist acknowledge the decline of Honeybees in US
Beekeepers and scientist acknowledge the decline of Honeybees in US

Honeybees, which are very important to agriculture, continue to disappear at alarming rates in the United States. And the cause of this disappearance is still elusive. While at least one recent study seems to point to pesticides as the problem, the US Agriculture Department has also found parasites causing general weakness among bee colonies. 

Beekeepers around the country are struggling to keep their honeybees alive.  According to the US Department of Agriculture the losses around the country are between 50 and 90 percent.

"Our losses for the last couple of years have averaged better than 60 percent a year," David Hackenberg stated. He is one of the largest beekeepers on the East Coast of the United States. He has worked with bees for the last 48 years. He blames the disappearance of his bees on pesticides.

"The farmers, the horticulture people, the gardeners are pouring out all kinds of chemicals out here on the field, going in our soil and the stuff is coming back up in the plants," he said. "The unfortunate thing about this is that if this stuff is getting in the plants is also getting in the food."

Hackenberg says the problem is especially evident in the wax the bees produce. "The wax absorbs most of the stuff.  The wax is just full of pesticides," he said.

During the winter Hackenberg moves most of his bees to Florida.  As the spring comes in, he starts traveling north towards Pennsylvania with the bees, renting them to farmers, for weeks at a time, to pollinate all types of crops.  About a third of the U.S. food supply, in fact, comes from crops that are pollinated by insects. "Our bees move about 12,000 miles (19,000 kilometers) a year on the back of a truck," he explained.

Bees fly free during the day and then return to their hive at night.  That is when Hackenberg packs them back into the trucks and moves on to the next crop.

The mysterious disappearance of bees began about seven years ago in the U.S. and Europe.  Eventually the phenomenon was labeled "colony collapse disorder," or "CCD."  But while they now have a name for it, scientists still do not have a clear explanation for the problem.


At the U.S. Agriculture Department's bee research lab in Maryland, Jeff Pettis is the research leader.

"We think there is some group of interaction between things like poor nutrition, pesticide exposure and pathogens.  So I would point to those three things as adding enough stress to the colony that then that colony is susceptible to the pathogens to the viruses and bacteria."

Pennsylvania State University recently released the results of a large study on honeybees.  It found an average of six different pesticides in the honey, wax and dead bees that were studied.  Some samples had more than 80.  Pettis participated in the research. "What we found was that there were a variety of pesticides that were in the pollen, the wax and the bees themselves," he says, "so there was a lot of exposure."

While most studies are designed to show the effects of one pesticide at a time, research into combinations of pesticides is just beginning.

"Penn State, the lab here, several labs around the country are beginning to combine different pesticides together and look at the synergy of it as it goes on," Pettis said.

Pettis says no research has yet shown enough evidence to declare pesticides as the only reason the bees are disappearing.  He says the bee colonies that have collapsed show high disease levels, but scientists have not been able to explain how that happens. "The only clear signal that we see is that when the bees die they have high levels of viruses and pathogens," he explained.

Research indicates that poor nutrition among bees is mostly due to large fields of single crops, which leave the bees without enough variety in their diet. There are other theories as well, but all of them seem to point in the same direction as David Hackenberg's outlook:

"I don't think the future is good," Hackenberg says, "It's going to take a long time to clean up our environment.  We contaminated our environment to the point that is going to take a long time to reverse it."

Report narrated by Elizabeth Lee

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

Audio 'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populationsi
X
April 24, 2015 10:13 PM
A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Study: Insecticide Damaging Wild Bee Populations

A popular but controversial type of insecticide is damaging important wild bee populations, according to a new study. VOA’s Steve Baragona has more.
Video

Video Data Servers Could Heat Private Homes

As every computer owner knows, when their machines run a complex program they get pretty hot. In fact, cooling the processors can be expensive, especially when you're dealing with huge banks of computer servers. But what if that energy could heat private homes? VOA’s George Putic reports that a Dutch energy firm aims to do just that.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.

VOA Blogs